First published by Bloch Australia in 2014
Ballerinas have always had a glamorous image, both on and off stage. Whether it was Fonteyn in fur or Bussell in a leather jacket, famous ballerinas have often had an iconic off-stage style. When Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes arrived on the stage in the early 20th century, the eclectic and wild style he brought with it was revolutionary, and still inspires fashion today. This is hardly surprising given that Diaghilev commissioned Coco Chanel, Pablo Picasso, and Salvadore Dali to collaborate with him on bringing his aesthetic vision to life. From Yves Saint Laurent’s 1976 Ballets Russes inspired catwalk, to Zandra Rhodes’ current collections, and even the eccentric style star Iris Apfel, Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes style is still being re-imagined today.
Ballet has often been associated, however unfortunately, with exclusivity. For audiences of a ballet performance, it has long been considered appropriate to wear one’s black tie best. Even Diana Vishneva, the Russian-born international ballet star, was recently snapped with her custom made Louis Vuitton touring luggage, proving that glamour is still the most common link between the worlds of fashion and ballet. It’s unsurprising, given that professional Russian ballet dancers are well known for their glamorous and elegant ballet class look. Unlike the professional dancers working for companies in America and parts of Europe - who tend to wear mismatched bits of warm up gear more reminiscent of Rei Kawakubo’s bag lady aesthetic than of anything classic - Russian ballet dancers are typically extremely polished from bun to shoe. Despite this idiosyncrasy, all ballet dancers are connected by their footwear. A pair of nude satin pointe shoes are a beautiful representation of ballet’s dichotomy of grace and grit. And ballet ﬂats - the soft, satin slipper that all young girls remember from their ﬁrst lessons - have been reincarnated to become possibly the most ubiquitous women’s shoe of all time. From Chanel and Marc Jacobs to Topshop and Bloch, the ballet ﬂat is everywhere. It is the entry point for the now multi-faceted business that is ballet and fashion.
When Sarah Jessica Parker coquettishly strutted down a New York City sidewalk wearing a pink singlet and white tulle tutu in the opening sequence of Sex And The City, she ignited a re-emergence of the ultra-feminine in fashion. And to a large swathe of society, nothing could be considered more feminine than a female ballet dancer wearing diaphanous layers of ﬂoating tulle. Since Carrie Bradshaw’s fashion-frenzied life entered our homes, ballet style has trickled down from the iconic fashion houses of Oscar De La Renta and Valentino into our high street stores. Even the humble bun has become one of the most popular hairstyles of recent memory, portraying the chic and clean look that ballet dancers so effortlessly radiate.
Alongside being innately elegant, ballet dancers also typically have the physique akin to fashion models. Long necks and legs, slender waists, and impeccable posture have led some of the world’s most prominent and talented designers to work with professional ballet companies. In September 2012, Valentino Garavani designed the costumes for the New York City Ballet’s Fall Gala. It seemed a natural ﬁt given Valentino’s love of classical dance and his position as one of the most established master couturiers of feminine and beautiful womenswear, and a designer who has amassed much critical acclaim and attention. The following year, Joseph Altuzarra created the costumes for the New York City Ballet’s 2013 Spring Gala.
Locally, it seems we are more in love than ever with the union of fashion and ballet. Recently, Akira Isogawa designed the costumes for Graeme Murphy’s recent production of Romeo and Juliet for The Australian Ballet, which garnered much attention from both the ballet and fashion worlds. Toni Maticevski, another prominent Australian womenswear designer, designed the costumes for Tinted Windows, a work choreographed by Alice Topp for The Australian Ballet’s 2013 Bodytorque season. The list of collaborations goes on, and will no doubt continue to do so. Luckily for both worlds, the romance between fashion and ballet is here to stay.